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DAWN - Editorial; December 27, 2008

December 27, 2008


Purpose of the NSC

By A.G. Noorani

NO ONE shed a tear at the demise of the National Security Council. On the contrary, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s announcement on Nov 28 that the NSC would be disbanded was received with relief. For the NSC set up by presidents more than one were not modelled on the US’s National Security Council as an aid to democratic governance but on the Turkish model tailored to suit the ends of the president of the day.

The first NSC was President Ziaul Haq’s creation. He inserted Article 152-A into the constitution by the dubious device of the Revival of the Constitution Order with effect from March 2, 1985. Its task was to make recommendations relating to the issue of a Proclamation of Emergency, “Security of Pakistan and any other matter of national importance that may be referred to it by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister. The National Security Council shall consist of the President, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Senate, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chiefs of Staff of the Pakistan Army, the Pakistan Navy and the Pakistan Air Force and the Chief Ministers of the provinces.”

Article 152-A was deleted by the Eighth Amendment which went into force on Nov 9, 1985. But on Jan 6, 1997, a mere four weeks before the Feb 3 general election, President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari made a notification to establish a Council for Defence and National Security. A caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Meraj Khalid was in office. The notification was issued under articles 90 and 99 of the constitution as amendments to the Rules of Business. Rule 20-A established the council. It was a patent nullity and a gross abuse of rule-making power.

After the general election Nawaz Sharif lost no time in declaring as prime minister that he had no use for the president’s council.

The military coup of October 1999 gave fresh impetus to the revival of the idea. As chief executive Gen Pervez Musharraf made an order on Oct 31 appointing a National Security Council comprising himself, the chiefs of the air force and the navy plus “such other members as may be appointed by the Chief Executive”. Its terms of reference included everything except the kitchen sink: “The Council shall deliberate upon, discuss and tender advice to the Chief Executive on such matters as the Chief Executive may deem expedient and necessary to refer to the national security, foreign affairs, law and order, corruption, accountability, recovery of bank loans and public debts from defaulters, finance, economic and social welfare, health, education, Islamic ideology, human rights, protection of minorities and women development so as to achieve the aims and objectives enshrined in the Objectives Resolution of 1949.”

It was woefully apparent that the institution was a fig leaf to cover the nudity of arbitrary power. The Legal Framework Order of 2003 revived Article 152-A. In 2004 the National Assembly enacted the National Security Act, 2004. The remit was “to serve as a forum for consultation on matters of national security, including the sovereignty, integrity, defence, security of the State and crisis management”.

Its composition was revealing. The president, the prime minister, presiding officers of the National Assembly and the Senate, the leader of the opposition, chief ministers of the provinces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee plus the chiefs of the army, navy and air force.

A body so constituted cannot possibly facilitate either dispatch or candour. Legislation was necessary because the 17th Amendment to the constitution envisaged substitution of Article 152-A by an Act of Parliament.

But it is the NSC of a kind that has a disreputable ancestry. Turkey’s constitution of 1982 is not a model for emulation but a warning to be heeded. It recalls in its preamble “the operation carried out on September 12, 1980 by the Turkish Armed Forces in response to a call from the Turkish nation.” Article 118 establishes a National Security Council comprising the president, prime minister, the chief of the general staff, and ministers of defence, internal affairs and foreign affairs. Its remit is formulation and implementation of “the national security policy of the state”. It can decide on measures for the preservation of the independence of the state “and the peace and security of society”.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it an advisory body on security. That is precisely what a National Security Council should do. In the US, the NSC was set up by the National Security Act, 1947. It has been used or ignored depending on the president’s style of functioning. Kennedy ignored it but set up an executive committee (Excom) which deliberated throughout the Cuban missile crisis.

A good NSC has two advantages. It gives the armed forces an institutional say in matters of security. Their advisory input is imperative. Only a foolish government would neglect their contribution. Besides, the NSC fosters disciplined decision-making as distinct from decisions based on the omniscience of the supreme leader. The American experience teaches a lot — by analogy not blind invitation. The formulation of options, based on thoughtful policy papers, is a process not to be belittled. Fundamentally, it must be an aid to democratic governance, not a curb on it.

The writer is a lawyer and an author.

A song half-sung

By Tariq Islam

ON a cold winter’s evening, an explosion from hell ushered in the permanent permafrost in ordinary lives. One assassin, one macabre moment of madness, one frightening flash and the dawn of hope faded, as her spirit sailed into the sunset. In the blink of an eye, lives had sunk into an abyss of darkness. This December day stands as the reminder of our winter of discontent.

I mourn today a woman who to me was far more than a first cousin. Hers was a presence so powerful and pervasive; she remained an all-embracing blanket of security and strength. She filled so many vacuums in one’s life that the thought of life without her is yet to crystallise into accepted reality. This winter’s day is a sharp reminder of personal dispossession and dysphoria.

Books will be written on her. She will be idolised, myths will be spun and stories with half-truths conjured up. She was multi-dimensional, so much larger than life and so saleable an image that it is inevitable that her life will be viewed through multicoloured prisms. It is also inevitable that there will be a rush to capture and canonise her memory. But in all the colourful stories that are told about her, one hopes that her true essence is not destroyed.

One hopes that lament rather than lucre remains the motivating factor in recalling her memory.

My earliest memories take me to the time when we were children all, playing hide-and-seek, climbing hills and having our usual spats. I had four cousins born of my maternal uncle, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Now, only the solitary Sanam survives to remind us that once there was a family.

I recall how as kids we would be prancing around the lobby of 70 Clifton and her father would suddenly walk in.

After greeting the other children, he would head to his library, which was always considered a sacred and out-of-bounds area. He would always pluck Pinkie, as we called her then, out of our small crowd and take her into his library. While other kids were still reading comic books, Pinkie was being tutored in the art of politics and world affairs.

In 1970, Benazir went off to Radcliffe in America, and it was there that her ideas and intellect found enduring sustenance. After graduating from Radcliffe, Benazir came to Oxford to begin a new and an even more fulfilling journey. This was her father’s alma mater, and she returned home after graduating and looked forward to a new beginning, a new journey.

Her father was the all-powerful prime minister and the world was at her feet. What was there to stop her from reaching for the stars? But trial and tragedy were written in the stars. A military coup overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and a period of relentless victimisation began. This was a period of unremitting hardships for the Bhutto family and their supporters, who were flogged, tortured and jailed with impunity.

This was also the time of Benazir’s political education in practical terms. She regularly visited her father at Rawalpindi Central Jail, where he would pass instructions and guidance. Benazir was beginning to kick up a political storm all on her own, and fearful of her fiery style and popularity, the martial law administration would frequently place her in confinement.

All international appeals to spare Bhutto’s life fell on deaf ears, and the moment of eternal darkness arrived without notice. On April 3, 1979 Benazir and her mother were abruptly taken from their confinement to the death cell. This was not their day for a visit. Something in the air smelled foul. It was time for the final goodbye.

Bravely, Benazir held on and fought on. Bhutto’s judicial murder sent millions of PPP supporters into deep shock and grief. She met everyone, no one was turned away. This was the making of the future chairperson of the PPP.

In the summer of 1985, she joined the rest of her family in Cannes. For the first time after many, many years they were once again united as a family and were happy to be together. But time and tragedy interacted once again as a reminder that in the lives of the Bhuttos mirth was a mirage. The family was woken up in the early hours of that summer morning to the news that Shahnawaz, in the very prime of youth, had been murdered.

Of all her siblings, Shahnawaz was the closest to her. She was devastated. Risking arrest and persecution, she took her brother back to Garhi Khuda Bakhsh to sleep in peace.

Benazir returned to England and immersed herself in work, in endless meetings and foreign tours. From her Barbican flat, she and her typewriter waged war on dictator Zia. She was restless though and wanted to return home. She was also conscious of the fact that as a single woman in Pakistani politics, the path forward would always be uphill.

Her proposal for marriage to Asif came through my mother while she was in London. After her initial meeting with him at our flat, she nominated me to ‘interview’ Asif. I arranged to meet Asif over lunch and it seemed I was more nervous than him. I was given a long list of questions to ask him and had to commit these to memory. And also retain Asif’s responses in minute detail.

Later that evening I had to undergo so thorough a debriefing that I joked with her, “Are you going into battle or marriage?”

Benazir pursued her political struggle with a primal sense of purpose, which finally bore fruit when she took oath as the Muslim world’s first prime minister in December 1988. Once again, she had vindicated her father’s name.

The old men from the old, rusted order plotted and planned. First came a no-confidence motion sponsored by sinister and shadowy forces, and when this failed a campaign was mounted to plunder the truth. Uninterrupted excoriation was followed by vilification.

Benazir was ousted from power followed by a plethora of corruption charges. Democracy was once more placed in the dungeon.

Benazir surmounted impossible odds to vanquish her foes and win power for a second time in November 1993. She moved at a frenetic pace. There was a sense of exhilaration and excitement. But treachery was waiting in the wings. Her own Brutus stabbed her in the back and it was back to the battlefield. To compound the pain and perfidy, her brother Mir was killed in an encounter for which her government stood accused.There now followed a period of unrelenting trial and persecution. Asif was once again back in jail while Benazir ran around from one court to another to fight her own cases and Asif’s. The persecution became so intense that she was forced into self-exile in Dubai and London.

Even in the extremities of her despair, she seemed to float above the drab dullness of ordinary lives. There was always an agenda, always something to be taken care of.

She spent her summers in London when her children had their vacations from school in Dubai, where we spent some quality time together. She was a great family person, and would go out of her way to get every one of us, her sister, cousins and relatives, together.

She enjoyed a stroll in Hyde Park, was happy spending the afternoon at the movies or at the Bayswater skating rink, watching her children and nephews and nieces bowl while she dug into her favourite peppermint-flavour Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Well, that was Benazir. Everyone knew her name but very, very few really knew her.

Comparisons are often made between Bhutto and Benazir. Such comparisons are tenuous and tedious. For one, they lived and governed at different times. Bhutto’s was an era of socialism. It was an era of rebellions and marches. It was the era of non-alignment and fierce nationalism. It was an era of idealism.

Benazir witnessed the bringing down of the Berlin Wall and the retreat of ideology. It was an era of globalisation and the market economy. The forces that propelled them were fundamentally different. Bhutto ruled with an absolute majority and absolute authority. There were few challenges to him and he ruled with an iron fist.

Benazir had to constantly seek compromises and suffer coalitions and dilutions of power. Bhutto was the catalyst of change, she its champion. Conditions and compulsions, the forces and the dynamics, were too different to merit a meaningful comparison.They were both brilliant and tireless. Both had untapped reserves of energy and vitality. Both had a formidable aura. Both were populists and had the common touch. Both were utterly fearless. Both father and daughter turned the word Bhutto into a brand name, a national political website for Pakistan.

To be concluded

The solution is peace

By Shahab Usto

FINALLY it seems that the blinkers are coming off, with the Indian government softening its rhetoric on Pakistan. Though both governments are showing a mutual desire to work anew for peace and progress, the question remains whether the war mania that gripped the region until recently will give way to collective amnesia?

Let’s hope not. This time round the political grandees must get down to business and find ways and means to deal with terrorism. Here are some points to begin with.

One, the Mumbai attacks have clearly shown the limited capacity of the state and the unbounded reach of the terrorists. Tackling terrorism continues to be an intractable task for the states. A small group of 10 militants has brought two nuclear states to the brink of war, stalled the decade-long peace process and sent a wave of shock and awe across the globe.

The attacks did not result merely from the inefficiency or negligence of the state apparatus. Instead, they reflect the state’s helplessness before the terrorists who were bent upon causing mayhem employing virtually all the powers that work in this globalised world — connectivity, contiguity, callousness and creed. Above all, their most lethal weapon was their death wish.

Therefore, let alone preventing terrorism, even catching a terrorist in action has become a virtual impossibility for every security apparatchik. Thus, evidence of terror has superseded its prevention. Why not? Imagine, had Ajmal Kasab not been caught alive, wouldn’t the blame game and the international fulminations against Pakistan have taken a rather less credible mode?

Two, the Mumbai attacks have brought the intelligence agencies under critical focus. But what is forgotten is that just as the navy was paramount in the mercantile era, the army in the colonial period, the air force and missile technology in chastising ‘rogue’ states, the human and technical intelligence apparatus has come to play a prime role against non-state actors. True, their role at times turns too pernicious for their own good but that happens only in restrictive and undemocratic states.

Moreover, security and intelligence agencies all over the world are fed on a mixture of ideology and nationalism. Therefore, whenever a state does a volte-face as did Gen Musharraf after 9/11, the intelligence and security apparatus finds it hard to adjust to the new ideological moorings. There are many instances when the governments faced tough resistance from their security apparatus.

Gorbachev faced a near-coup in the wake of his perestroika. President Kennedy had to contend with a hawkish military brass during the Cuban missile crisis. President de Gaulle also faced tough resistance from the colonialist generals who were bent upon retaining Algeria as France’s colony. And for good measure, one can also cite the Kargil incident manufactured by Gen Musharraf to abort the Indo-Pak peace process.

Therefore, to assume that the security and intelligence agencies would easily toe new ideological orientations would be a euphoric thought. However, defence establishments do fall in line when governments enjoy an overwhelming mandate of the people. In the wake of democracy in much of Latin America, the governments are no more threatened by ultra-rightist security and intelligence forces.Three, traditionally the South Asian region has witnessed wars that were fought either because the governments ignored the will of the people or they manipulated public opinion. For example, it was the generals who planned and prosecuted the wars in Pakistan. People were denied their right to oppose them.

But in ‘democratic’ India, a great majority of people was swayed by successive governments in the name of Mahabharat and lately Hindutva.

According to a report, India has now as many as 174 terror groups. Out of India’s 608 districts, at least 231 are perennially faced with various insurgent and terrorist movements. Recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also regretted that India was “failing in its efforts to crush” a Maoist rebellion plaguing vast swathes of the country.

And ditto for Pakistan. It is also faced with insurgencies in two of its four provinces. About 40 per cent of its people live in abject poverty. Yet, it spends 4.5 per cent of GDP on defence (1.4 per cent on education), despite the fact that its security-state status failed to save the country from dismemberment in 1971 and its ideology has rent apart the social fabric.

But it is very heartening to know that the people of both India and Pakistan have come of age. Keeping aside the initial frenzy whipped up by a coloured media, they appear to have rejected the jingoists and support efforts to bring about peace. Thus, it is for the first time that the region has seen a sea change in public perception, which if mobilised could go a long way in establishing peace in the region.

Four, the Mumbai attacks should also encourage a serious debate on developing a regional approach to resolve a plethora of problems that afflict this region. South Asia is a honeycomb of many genuinely aggrieved national, religious, cultural and political groups which are continuously persecuted by one or the other states, forcing many of them to take up arms.

It is time states stopped relying only on their coercive apparatus and created a conducive political atmosphere for all people.

Finally, instead of supporting dictatorial regimes, the US, and also the international community, should oppose all those states which are violating people’s rights including the universally recognised right of self-determination.

Let the rule of law prevail and constitutionalism take root to inculcate democratic norms in the region. Only then will terrorism be defeated and South Asians live in peace and amity.

For a fresh approach

By Mushfiq Murshed

A REPORT titled ‘The next chapter: The United States and Pakistan’ has been prepared for president-elect Obama by the Pakistan Policy Working Group. The study presents Pakistan as “the single greatest challenge facing the next American President.” It also suggests that a fresh approach and a revision of policies by the new US administration could provide an opportunity for the two countries to develop a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship as “the United States cannot afford to see Pakistan fail.”

Since its creation, the Pakistani leadership, bureaucrats, technocrats, politicians and military alike, have tried to mould the country in the likeness of a security state. In effect the implication is that the services of its armed forces could be hired to achieve the objectives of distant global powers in return for economic assistance. In the late 1940s the Soviet threat on its western borders was pitched to the American State Department. The offer was ignored.

As the initial contours of a bipolar world emerged US strategic thinking changed and Pakistan joined regional military pacts such as Cento and Seato which were elements of the US policy of containment of communism. As the American’s ‘most allied ally’ Pakistan thus became a recipient of economic assistance. This trend eventually led to Pakistan’s unconditional support against the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan.

Presently 130,000 troops are deployed in the tribal belt and the NWFP for the war on terror. It is perceived by a majority of Pakistanis that the present scenario is, once again, based on our guns-for-hire strategy. While Pakistan’s inclusion in the war was not optional in 2001, the ground realities of 2008 however are quite contrary to perceptions.

The loss of writ by the state in areas of the tribal belt and even some settled districts of NWFP, the ruthless treatment of Pakistani citizens by militants, the mass violations of human rights, and the soaring number of casualties caused by indiscriminate attacks of terrorism throughout the country make it our war and the time has come for us to own it.

Inflation, scarcity of food, economic stagnation and security issues have had devastating effects on the people of Pakistan. Their rudimentary analysis of this deplorable condition places the blame on the Pakistani administration’s willingness to pursue an American agenda. This, in turn, has resulted in extreme animosity against the US, a lack of confidence in the Pakistan government, and an indulgent and disturbingly receptive approach towards extremist elements.

The primary aim for the new US and Pakistani administrations should, therefore, be the implementation of strategies to counter this negative trend. The perception that the Pakistan military has been rented out to fight someone else’s war is fuelled by, among others, the type of aid received which has been primarily directed towards military purposes. The US has to broaden the recipient base of its aid packages so that a larger segment of Pakistani population can benefit. A new strategy needs to be implemented that directs US assistance towards education, healthcare, low-income housing and other similar socio-economic projects which will eventually impact the quality of life of an average Pakistani. This formidable task requires a long-term commitment and investment.

The report highlights the Biden-Lugar legislation (Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2008) that could provide Pakistan with $1.5bn of non-military assistance per annum. This is a step in the right direction and if the funds are managed appropriately it will go some way in addressing the fears and mistrust of the people.

Economic aid, however, is just one aspect of the multi-faceted Pakistan-US relationship which, due to geopolitical circumstances is not purely bilateral but intertwined with neighbouring countries, specifically India and Afghanistan.

The recent US-India nuclear deal and talk about future cooperation between the two in building a missile defence shield has resulted in further mistrust. The people of Pakistan are convinced that these are initial steps of a long-term plan to destabilise Pakistan, capture its nuclear assets and eventually place the region under Indian hegemony. While the US has every right to engage with India in mutually beneficial deals, it must nonetheless consider how this will impact on the region.

The war on terror is no longer restricted to battlefields. The hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan have to be won over. Countering perceived notions is as crucial for the success of the war on terror as military action. The militants no longer require personalities such as Osama Bin Laden for their movement to gain momentum. Deplorable socio-economic conditions in Pakistan, neglect and an endless list of conspiracy theories are providing them the impetus to thrive.

This trend needs to be reversed. Bold and imaginative policies have to be crafted and implemented before it is too late.

The writer is editor-in-chief of Criterion Quarterly.

Korangi oil spill

By F.H. Mughal

Some days ago, crude oil gushed out of a pipeline under pressure forming a huge oil fountain whose contents caused havoc in parts of Karachi’s Korangi area. The oil splash affected people, houses, water resources, soil and birds.

The composition of different grades of oil varies. Typically, oil contains metals like nickel, vanadium, iron, copper, chromium, paraffin, isoparaffins, aromatics, naphthenes, vacuum gas oil, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur, etc. Almost all are toxic. The severity of adverse health effects depend on the exposure level. Those who have received oil splashes directly and have their homes covered with oil are at high risk. In addition, old people, women (especially pregnant women) and children are at high risk, even with relatively low exposure.

In Korangi, raw industrial waste water in the channels and drains is used for growing vegetables. The already-contaminated vegetables irrigated in Korangi, have been further contaminated by water mixed with oil posing a serious health risk.

Soil contamination is reported to be severe in Korangi. Since the presence of oily soil poses threats to human health, urgent measures are required for soil treatment. There are a number of methods for the treatment of contaminated soil. These include bioremediation, soil washing, land-filling, incineration, thermal desorption, chemical addition, and composting.

Bioremediation technique involves adding nutrients to the contaminated soil, to enhance the growth of bacteria naturally present in the environment. These bacteria naturally cause degradation of certain types of toxic hydrocarbons in oil. Bacterial growth can be increased by applying nutrients, which increase the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus, the nutrients bacteria need to utilise hydrocarbons as a food source.

Soil-washing systems comprise adding a wash solution (water and/or a surfactant) to soil to remove contaminants. The contaminants are transferred from the soil to the wash solution, which then must be treated. Water alone is not effective in removing PAHs. Other solutions, such as hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide, are also used in soil-washing techniques.

Land-filling is one of the oldest forms of remediation. Contaminated soil is excavated from the site and transported to a landfill, where it remains indefinitely. Incineration is the destruction of contaminants by burning contaminated soil. This method is very expensive and causes air pollution. In thermal desorption, soil is heated to increase the vapour pressure of contaminants causing contaminants to be released from the soil.

In the case of the Korangi spill, soil washing, land-filling and bioremediation methods are suggested in order of priority. For bioremediation, the concerned oil company needs to contact the biological department of the Karachi University, since controlled conditions are required for the growth of bacteria.

In case the land-filling system is adopted for soil treatment, the approval of the environment regulatory agency must be obtained for soil disposal, since improper disposal of contaminated soil has the potential to cause severe environmental impacts, including the contamination of water resources.

Post-oil-spill operations revealed a poor emergency response.

Proper preparedness demands that the oil pipeline route is known to other relevant agencies. lines.